East Manatee, Florida -- It may seem as if the housing industry is bulldozing agricultural land in East Manatee County, the truth is, as developments continue to grow so is the cattle industry.
The Florida Cattleman Association says drought out west and a higher demand for beef means the cattle business is moving on up in Florida and in Manatee County making it one of the top beef producing counties in Florida.
Seventy-two-year-old Cully Rowell has been a cattle rancher all his life.
"You've got a reason to get up, come out, and look at newborn calves," say Rowell as he drives out onto his farmland looking for his cattle.
And these days Rowell has another reason to get up in the morning.
"We're looking at 2014 to be a good year. Right now the prices are still holding pretty good," he says.
According to Manatee County's University of Florida Extension Services, ranchers are getting more per pound at auction on average $1.60 per pound in 2012, compared to $1.12 per pound in 2009. Florida is a cow/calf breeding state.
Still, Rowell says the return on his money sometimes depends on the weather. Monday night's low temperatures can kill profits.
"Tonight or tomorrow night we might come out the door and see the grass dead. Then we will have to start feeding hay and molasses to keep cows in good shape," he says.
Rowell says 8 of the nation's top 20 beef producers are in Florida. UF Extension Officials say Manatee ranks 13th in the state and while the number of cattle has dropped by about 15,000 heads between 2009 and 2012 cattle land has expanded by 5,000 acres a sign of a growing industry and stronger economy.
"The economy is getting better and we're hoping that they can afford a beef steak or a burger once in a while," says Rowell.
As for the cattle industry's future in Manatee, Rowell feels pretty good about it.
"I think we're going to survive."
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